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Chorus Against Net Neutrality Grows

The chorus of critics against a proposal for open-Internet policies at the Federal Communications Commission is growing. Thursday, the companies that sell the equipment for Internet networks and the people laying down fiber and engineering cell phone networks complained to the FCC chairman that the proposal could hurt the economy and slow the spread of broadband Internet networks.

And a common refrain has emerged among the protests. Companies, trade groups and a lawmaker appear to object to details in the proposal that would clearly make the new rules apply only to Internet service providers. A draft proposal being circulated to commissioners include a rewriting of current guidelines that apply only to access providers like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. Critics, say that while they don't want new guidelines, any changes to the rules should encompass Web applications service and content makers like Google, Amazon and Yahoo. Take a look at my post Wednesday that explains the change.

The proposal should "ensure consistency in all proposed principles by protecting consumers' access to vibrant competition (4th principle) and transparency (6th principle) among all Internet participants, including network providers, application and service providers and content providers," labor union Communications Workers of America wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski Thursday.

"Commentary that suggests all the innovation occurs 'at the edge' of the Internet with content and applications and software is both inaccurate and short sighted," Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee, wrote to Genachowski earlier this week. "We need to understand whether the commission will apply its principles and rules on an open Internet to everyone in the Internet community or requires additional authority to do so."

The concern was echoed in a letter by AT&T to the FCC's wireline bureau, asking regulators to prevent Google from blocking calls to rural areas through its Web-based voice application, Google Voice: "As communications services increasingly migrate to broadband Internet-based platforms; we can now see the power of Internet-based applications providers to act as gatekeepers who can threaten the “free and open” Internet.

Other letters protest language in the draft proposal that may include managed Internet services in rules that could limit carriers’ ability to offer digital cable and certain premium services, sources that have seen the draft proposal said.

None of these details are public, but they have been trickling out before the proposal goes up for vote next Thursday, Oct. 22. Public interest groups say the criticism appears premature, as the vote next week isn't for final rules. The vote would begin a months-long process, that would include public comment, on what new rules would look like, said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for the advocacy group Public Knowledge.

"In my 20 plus years in this business, I've never seen this kind of noise to try to stop the vote of a proposal just to begin a process of rule-making," Brodsky said. "This is unprecedented."

By Cecilia Kang  |  October 16, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
 | Tags: Kay Bailey, at&t, fcc, net neutrality, verizon  
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Next: Nation's CTO Reaffirms Commitment to Net Neutrality; Says Criticism Premature

Comments

Why this debate over net neutrality hasn't been understood as a battle between two giant industries is beyond me. This is Google vs AT&T pure and simple. What is curious is how groups like Free Press are mute while it is in the public interest to have these regulations apply to both ISPs and ASPs. (Maybe all those free Google ads for Save The Internet help soothe their pain.) I mean, what if Google told Verizon that they're cutting off access to Google search unless Verizon pays $100 million? That should be illegal. Or what if Google was helping a political campaign for president with edits to search results, data crunching services and personnel? Oops, that is illegal.

Posted by: christianm1973 | October 16, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What we have here is an old fashioned swindle, an attempt to return to the good old days of network media control centralized under three companies, except with the internet held hostage rather than the vast wasteland of television.
IF we let net neutrality go the way of bank regulation, we well have something considerably worse than NBC-ABC-CBS monopolism, we will have freedom of ONLY the corporate press with ONLY Capitalist friendly news available to anyone.

Posted by: mykmlr | October 16, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

What we have here is an old fashioned swindle, an attempt to return to the good old days of network media control centralized under three companies, except with the internet held hostage rather than the vast wasteland of television.
IF we let net neutrality go the way of bank regulation, we well have something considerably worse than NBC-ABC-CBS monopolism, we will have freedom of ONLY the corporate press with ONLY Capitalist friendly news available to anyone.

Posted by: mykmlr | October 16, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Remember that the Washington Post is against Net Neutrality from both the business and (surprise, surprise) the editorial ends of the paper. Don't believe them when they tell you that there is a "growing" chorus of critics. There isn't. It's just the same big business interests hoping to control the flow of information.

Put plain and simple, the Washington Post is lying to you because they want to protect their financial interests.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | October 16, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Network engineering by political hacks, law professors and bureaucrats? Not exactly an innovation-rich environment.

Posted by: thebump | October 16, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

Doesn't everyone trust Verizon and AT&T to make all the decisions about which sites come to your computer faster than others?

Posted by: jamshark70 | October 16, 2009 10:49 PM | Report abuse

I find it interesting that the Post is repeatedly quoting one of Google's DC lobbying groups -- Public Knowledge -- in articles on this issue and has shown an extreme bias toward Internet regulation.

Could it have something to do with the fact that the majority of WashingtonPost.com's revenues comes from Google/Doubleclick? Or with the fact that Google's logo appears twice on this page (and in fact on every page of the site)? Just wondering.

Posted by: squirma | October 17, 2009 12:46 AM | Report abuse

squirma, if you were from this area (instead of trolling from halfway across the country) you'd know that the WaPo IS an ISP and its official editorial position is against net neutrality. That's also where the company's financial interest lies.

The Post Ombudsman disclosed that after significant protest. Most of us here live, work, or have done so in the greater DC area. We're not a bunch of naifs.

In fact, the newsroom is independent. They have to report the facts.

The facts are that net neutrality is important for freedom of information and to preserve competition. That's the core of this debate - not about Google, not about AT&T, but about preserving a free society.

Posted by: VirginiaGal2 | October 17, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

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